In with a wimper out with a roar?

5th October 2009

Britain's Supreme Court opens for business on 1st October, and according to one of the region's leading dispute resolution lawyers, its introduction may be a relatively quiet one, but its cases and rulings could be anything but.

"There's been very little press coverage about the new Supreme Court for such a significant constitutional change," says Julia Lowe from Higgs & Sons.

The government announced in 2003 that it would end the constitutional anomaly under which a House of Lords Committee served as Britain's final court of appeal, and replace it with a 12-member Supreme Court located in its own building.  The change is part of a long list of constitutional changes brought in by Tony Blair's government in 1997, which set out to increase separation of the judiciary and government.

The introduction of the Supreme Court has been controversial in legal circles, not least amongst the judiciary, in particular some of the Lord Justices themselves.  The most high profile of its critics has been Lord Neuberger, who declined to take up a post in the Supreme Court.  He is now Master of the Rolls.  The vacancy left by Lord Neuberger is still to be filled.  At present there are only 11 rather than 12 judges appointed to the Supreme Court although there is much speculation as to who the 12th will be.

The impact of the change is unknown.  The prevailing view is that in the short term the Supreme Court will pick up where the House of Lords left off, with little apparent change.  The powers of the law lords and the Supreme Court are the same.  However, Julia believes that the new Supreme Court, which will be the highest court in the land, has the potential to make brave and controversial rulings.  She said: "The big question is whether the Supreme Court will use its powers to challenge parliament in ways that the law lords did not? 

"The legal profession is now sitting and watching to see what change the Supreme Court will bring."

For more information about Higgs' dispute resolution department contact Julia Lowe on 01384 342100.


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